Major League Baseball honored Seattle's Edwin Diaz and Miami's Kyle Barraclough as the American and National League's Relievers of the Month presented by The Hartford on Monday.
It's the second such honor this season for Diaz, whose 32 saves leads the Majors, after he also claimed the AL award for the March/April period. The third-year reliever from Puerto Rico extended his incredible year by permitting three earned runs and pairing 20 strikeouts with just two walks over 14 1/3 innings in June. Diaz converted 12 of his 13 save opportunities.
The Mariners entered Monday with a healthy eight-game lead on the AL's second Wild Card spot, and their tremendous 26-11 record in one-run games is a big reason why. There's likely no way Seattle would have excelled in those close contests without Diaz; the Mariners have gone 22-0 after he enters a game with a one-run lead, and the righty has allowed just two earned runs on 11 hits in those outings while whiffing 40 batters.
"It's really remarkable," Mariners manager Scott Servais told MLB.com last weekend. "You talk about the first half of the season, and so many guys have played key roles so far. But maybe nobody bigger than him. When you win all the close games and have that guy at the back end to turn it over to and have him come through as many times as he has in the one-run games, it's not easy."
Barraclough may be less heralded while pitching in Miami, but his 2018 numbers are getting harder and harder to ignore. Growing into a bigger role as the Marlins' primary closer in June, Barraclough converted all seven of his save opportunities and did not permit a single run in 12 innings last month. In fact, opponents combined for just one single in 36 at-bats against the right-hander while striking out 12 times. Barraclough's season ERA is down to 0.99, and his WHIP stands at a microscopic 0.74; both marks rank among the game's top five pitchers with at least 30 innings on the year.
"We wouldn't have put [Barraclough] in that role if he wasn't good," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of his new closer last week. "His stuff's always been good. He didn't use his slider as much, he uses it more as a weapon [now]. Before he was using it to get back in the count. So now there's really three pitches that he's working with."